Florida Court Discusses Evidence of Prior Bad Acts in Sex Crime Cases

Generally, the law precludes Florida courts from introducing evidence of a defendant’s prior misdeeds in order to establish their guilt. They can offer such evidence to the judge or jury for other reasons, though, as long as it does not become a central feature of the case. In a recent Florida opinion, the court discussed the factors that weigh into whether evidence of prior bad behavior should be admitted at trial in a sexual battery case in which it ultimately denied the defendant’s appeal. If you are accused of committing a sex crime, it is smart to confer with a Clearwater sex crime defense attorney about your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the state charged the defendant with sexual battery of a child under the age of 12. During the trial, the prosecution presented witnesses who testified that the defendant sexually abused them when they were between 6 and 8 years old, which was similar to his alleged sexual abuse of the victim in the subject case. The jury convicted the defendant. The defendant then filed an appeal.

Admission of Prior Bad Act Evidence

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in permitting the prosecution to introduce evidence of his prior wrongs or acts of child molestation. The court disagreed and affirmed the trial court ruling. In doing so, the court explained that although some of the prior bad acts happened several years before the subject offense, that is merely one factor for the courts to consider when weighing whether to admit such evidence.

In other words, the age and gender of the victims, the similarities of the prior acts to the charged offense, and the manner in which the defendant committed the acts were all factors the courts can evaluate when assessing whether to admit evidence of prior bad acts. In the subject case, the court found that the trial court properly considered such factors and did not abuse its discretion.

Further, the court explained that the evidence of the defendant’s prior bad acts did not become a central issue in the trial. Courts must assess whether collateral crime evidence became a central issue of a trial on a case-by-case basis, and the determination is multifaceted and fact-dependent. Here, as the testimony about the acts was short and the prosecution only noted the acts briefly in its opening and closing statements, it was not a central issue in the case. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Meet with an Experienced Clearwater Attorney

The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person committed a sex crime, and it cannot use inadmissible evidence to meet its burden of proof. If you are charged with a sexual offense, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney to assess your options. The experienced Clearwater sex crime defense attorneys of Hanlon Law can examine the facts of your case and formulate compelling defenses on your behalf. You can contact Hanlon Law via the online form or by calling 727-897-5413 to set up a meeting.

Posted In:
Published on:

Comments are closed.

Contact Information